No one in the NBA has been more impressive than the Beard this season. James Harden has recorded 11 triple-doubles (3 of which he has had 40 or more points in), leads the league in assists, and is 3rd in scoring, all while leading a team, many thought were non-factors this year, to 3rd place in the Western Conference. Harden’s true potential is finally showing this season with new head coach Mike D’Antoni, and is leading the Houston Rockets to one of its best seasons in franchise history
The 13-year veteran is putting in another quality year for the Rockets, and his consistency makes him an excellent role player. Ariza mainly earns his keep on the defensive end where he is one of the top defenders at his position this year, and is top 5 in the steals category. Ariza has also improved as a 3-point threat as he is averaging 2.8 made 3’s a game, a career high for him, and he has shown he can hit it when it matters like on December 17th when he sent the Timberwolves game to overtime.
In his debut season with the Houston Rockets, Ryan Anderson has found his niche on the team by shooting the three. 60.8% of Anderson’s shots this season have been 3-pointers and ranks 23rd in the league in 3-point percentage. Anderson’s defense is still a concern going forward as well as his ability to disappear in games, but his shooting ability has won games for the Rockets and is a nice offensive pairing to James Harden.
Despite missing some games at the beginning of the year, Patrick Beverley is having his best year yet averaging 9.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.4 assists.”The Wolverine” has turned into a top-ten point guard in ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus stat category this season, and has developed as an offensive threat under new coaching. Beverley’s defense continues to be the strongest point of his game as his pesky and relentless defensive efforts have turned him into one of the best defensive guards in the league.
In his first year with the Rockets, Eric Gordon has played extremely well off the bench, averaging 17.8 points per game. Gordon’s ability to come off the bench and instantly rack up points has been huge for the Rockets, and is a big part of the reason that the Rockets bench has been so good this season. EG’s health has always been an issue for him, but if he stays reasonably healthy for the rest of the year, he could make a very compelling case for the 6th Man of the Year award.
Taking over the reins of center from Dwight Howard, Clint Capela has had a smooth transition into a larger role and his play has exceeded all expectations. Capela has benefited from the new offense as he has averaged 11.8 points and 8 rebounds, and has clearly found some chemistry with James Harden. At 22 years old, Capela still needs work defensively and should be getting more rebounds, but he is one of the most efficient scorers in the league and knows his role on the team.
Playing meaningful minutes for the first time in his career, energizer Montrezl Harrell has made the most of his second season. Harrell saw a significant increase in minutes when Clint Capela went down with a leg injury in December, and has shown that he is more than flashy dunks, but a player who can score 25+ points in any given game. Most impressively is that Harrell is ranked 7th in the player efficiency ratings out of all power forwards in the league, which is certainly a lot more than what the Rockets expected in a bench reserve.
Despite not getting many minutes, Nene has still been serviceable on the court and has filled in nicely during Capela’s injury.Apart from winning games at the free-throw line, Nene has served as a mentor to young big men Montrezl Harrell and Clint Capela. Nene being a force on offensive is in the past, but he has had a strong defensive year and his bench presence is invaluable.
The former Wisconsin standout is also in his first year playing as part of the second-unit, and has been a nice surprise as the talent that made him a first rounder is there. Sam Dekker is known for being a strong shooter, but he has also been an effective rebounder and has shown good play-making abilities. Dekker should continue to play a useful role in the Rockets elite second unit, and will be exciting to watch develop.
Corey Brewer’s role has decreased this year with the emergence of Sam Dekker, but even with the smaller role, Brewer has still failed to produce. Brewer has averaged 4.2 points in 15 minutes this season, and his occasional 10 point performance should not merit him 15 minutes a game.